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Building Stories
Building Stories (Hardback)
Chris Ware
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The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games (Paperback)
Suzanne Collins
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The idea of putting children in an enclosed space and having them fight for survival has long been a familiar trope in human entertainment, featured in works from Lord of the Flies to the movie Battle Royale. Suzanne Collins' series The Hunger Games subverts the format by promoting this juvenile blood-fest from a fringe pursuit, to an annual ritual central to the society in which it is held. Being the most recent work on this list, The Hunger Games embodies particularly modern concerns: the rise of reality television, the lust for fame, and the necessity for humans to be heavily armed when embarking on camping trips.

AKH48 . - 30/07/2013
A Foreign Country
A Foreign Country (Paperback)
Charles Cumming
 
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This is an espionage thriller that grips right from the start. Charles Cumming, author of five previous novels, has a keen sense of character and pacing, and he always brings something interesting and new to the genre. His 2011 novel, The Trinity Six, was an absorbing look at the Cambridge spy ring, and in this new novel the first female head of MI6 has disappeared six weeks before she is to take on the job, and a disgraced MI6 officer is given the chance to redeem himself by finding her. In the meantime, it is imperative that her disappearance remains a secret. Thrilling stuff.

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
The Dinner
The Dinner (Paperback)
Herman Koch
 
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Yes, it’s about a dinner at a restaurant in Amsterdam, where two couples meet to discuss the behaviour of their teenage sons. I’ll say no more about the story, but it very quickly becomes a no-holds-barred compelling family drama, with flashes of humour and a number of unsettling revelations. It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall at this dinner!

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop
Bob Stanley
 
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If Nik Cohn's book is 'Pop From The Beginning' then maybe Bob Stanley's work should be re-titled 'Pop At The End'. He valiantly attempts to encompass all developments and movements in Pop as captured during the age of the 7" 45RPM single. With the death of the singles chart as a national pastime Stanley seems to imply that some kind of Golden Age has come to an end. Reluctantly, I guess I kind of have to agree with him... you can prove me wrong if you like though.

Jarvis Cocker - 12/06/2014
The Complaints
The Complaints (Paperback)
Ian Rankin
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'The Complaints' is the second Ian Rankin novel since John Rebus, his police hero, retired in 'Exit Music', and Inspector Malcolm Fox, the hero of "The Complaints", shares Rebus's integrity and a dogged determination to get the job done. 'The Complaints' is the colloquial name for the section dedicated to detecting the most serious police offences and this Fox does with honesty and persistence, accepting that to work in The Complaints can make you a pariah to your colleagues. Rankin is a master at the integration of setting, plot, characters and the theme, which, for Rankin, is the moral dimension never far from his writing.

P D James - 16/06/2014
This Is How You Lose Her
Junot Diaz
 
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I’ve been obsessed with Junot Diaz ever since I picked up The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I think he is the most original voice to have appeared in the last decade. As it happens, I was initially wary of this collection of short stories just because it was so slim. It seemed cheeky to charge so much for so few words. But it totally blew my mind. Funny and moving and incredibly modern – the last story was so good that, as soon as I finished, I read it again.

Sathnam Sanghera - 26/09/2013
Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
Maria Semple
 
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This is a very funny, clever, modern epistolary novel. The majority of it is told via emails, newspaper articles, school reports, letters, notes and so on. I loved this book, the twisting story and the addictive eccentric characters. Reading it feels like watching the most fantastic film. You are totally engrossed.

Nina Stibbe - 29/11/2013
Freedom
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Freedom (Paperback)
Jonathan Franzen
 
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Like Middlemarch inasmuch as this is a lengthy novel about love and marriage that is also deeply engaged with what the author considers the major political issues of the era (here the 'freedom loving' Bush years): the liberal burden in the age of American empire; planetary overpopulation; and the plight of a songbird called the cerulean warbler.

Tim Glencross - 13/05/2014
An English Affair: Sex, Class and...
Richard Davenport-Hines
 
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The Profumo affair fascinated just about every adolescent boy in the UK back in the early 60s, and I doubt that many of us forget the risqué photographs of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies that were splashed all over the place. This is a thorough and comprehensive look at the affair from all sides, and a fascinating view of the times. It makes for compelling reading.

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
The Pale King
The Pale King (Paperback)
David Foster Wallace
 
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The first great novel of the 21st century uses the sinister beauty of the American Tax Code as a springboard from which to launch into a genuinely serious discussion of the origins and importance of civic responsibility amidst the hazy, blurred stupidity of a country in quick decline. Contrary to many reviews, I don't think it's about boredom, and it's certainly not boring. Another posthumous editor-to-manuscript resuscitation, the book hangs heavy with the clotted spectre of Wallace's suicide, which makes the writing glow all the more painfully through it.

Chris Ware - 02/10/2012
Pulphead: Notes from the Other Side ...
John Jeremiah Sullivan
 
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I was totally blown away by this collection of the new new new journalism, or however many "news" we’re up to these days. I think I like it as much – at times, even more – than Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never do Again. And that, for me, is saying a lot.

Zadie Smith - 10/08/2012
Field Grey: A Bernie Gunther Novel
Philip Kerr
 
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I've been a fan of Bernie Gunther ever since the Berlin Trilogy. After a long gap, I caught up with him again in The One from the Other in 2006, and now I’m moving at a leisurely pace with, I think, still two more books in hand before the next one is published. Field Grey is set in a number of locations before and after the Second World War, but mostly it concerns events during the fall of France and the beginnings of the German occupation in 1940. In this, it mirrors the era of Suite Française, though it’s a completely different kind of story. Bernie Gunther is an ex-cop turned private eye, and his capacity for surviving tyrannical regimes whilst retaining most of his integrity is awe-inspiring! He's also a witty, wise-cracking PI, likely to make exactly the kind of remark that will earn him another twist of the thumbscrews. Philip Marlow takes on the Nazis.

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
MetaMAUS
MetaMAUS (Hardback)
Art Spiegelman
 
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I thought that my generation was doing pretty well following Art's example of how to make serious comic books for adults, but this book demonstrates just how pale and paltry our efforts have been; via interviews, documents, photographs and preparatory sketches (and an interactive DVD) it's clear that Art not only created the graphic novel, but that graphic novel may also never be bettered.

Chris Ware - 02/10/2012
Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451 (Paperback)
Ray Bradbury
 
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Fahrenheit 451 is a novel by human Ray Bradbury about an imagined American society where books are outlawed. It is very good book, despite using a laughably general estimate of the auto-ignition point of paper. In fact, there are many physical variables for the ignition of paper, including thickness, density, composition, air pressure, humidity, and ambient temperature. This book would more accurately have been titled: Celsius 218–246, Depending upon Conditions. I would like to assure all fans of my books that every one of my 450,000 dystopian works are stored in offsite data facilities, and that our laboratories here at Infinitek Systems are protected by a state-of-the-art, foam-injection Fire Location and Managed Extraction System (F.L.A.M.E.S).

AKH48 . - 29/07/2013
The Secret History
The Secret History (Paperback)
Donna Tartt
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This was one of the first novels where I remember being genuinely aware of the brilliance of the writing as I was reading it – there are sentences and paragraphs that still take my breath away now, despite the number of times I’ve read it. It’s a long, slow, relentless novel – a beautifully drawn mystery woven through a painfully moving story of class, classics and what it means to belong, carried along by a group of the most unforgettable characters you’ll ever come across.

Will Hill - 15/03/2012

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